It’s been about eight years since the last gaming computer build, at that time it was AMD 64bit processor with a Gigabyte motherboard, 2GB RAM and nVidia GeForce video. Since that build, two separate game laptops have been purchased, both lacking in their graphics performance. The laptops served a purpose, and that was portability; the ability to game at the kitchen table or my office. The the performance at the $1000 price point is just not acceptable.
To assemble a great mid-range gaming PC, but also to have it as quiet as possible and have a small footprint.
Here’s the component list. The prices shown are as of when they were purchased, 24APR14. Obviously the prices fluctuate, a lot. For example, the PowerColor video card is now $40 cheaper (with rebate).
|CPU||Intel Core i5-4570 Haswell 3.2GHz||Link||$199.99|
|RAM||G.SKILL Ares Series 8GB||Link||$69.99|
|Video Card||PowerColor TurboDuo AXR9 270 2GBD5-TDHE/OC||Link||$179.99|
|Drive (Primary)||Samsung 840EVO 120GB||Link||$84.99|
|Drive (Secondary)||WD Blue WD10EZEX 1TB||Link||$59.99|
|Power Supply||Corsair CX600||Link||$69.99|
|Optical Drive||LiteOn iHAS124-14||Link||$19.99|
|Case||Rosewill Ranger M||Link||$29.99|
The system went together without issue.. as always, assemble as much as possible outside the case. CPU, heat-sink, cooler and RAM. The whole process takes place on an anti-static mat while wearing a ground strap.
Once the motherboard phase was completed, then it was time to prep the case. The standoffs were attached, making sure that they line up with the holes in the motherboard. Having a standoff in the wrong place can short pins together possibly making for a bad day.
The motherboard was installed using the supplied M3 screws. Next up was the two drives; SSD as the primary and the 3.5″ 1TB disk as the data storage drive. The SSD was installed using an OCZ adapter plate… oddly, the Samsung does not include one. Note that the pictures do not show the motherboard installed.
The final step was the optical drive and the interconnects. Because of the small case size, having the optical drive installed with the Corsair power supply was not going to work. A modular power is required. There was a SeaSonic S12II 620 Bronze on the parts shelf that fit. Still really tight, but it will work for the project.
Time to power it up and get Windows 7 Pro installed. It started out OK.. but quicky failed with a series of horizontal bars with fill what looked like white noise, but it was colored instead of black and white. Turns out, after some of troubleshooting, that it was the RAM. RMA’ed it with G.SKill and a couple weeks later the system was up and running.
The SSD is only 120GB, so it’s necessary to manage the space carefully. For example, Steam was installed on the 1TB drive (in this case it’s E:) and the default document library was also redirected to the E:. Still, with only MS Office installed, about half of the drive space is consumed. One other issue was that Windows Hibernation was enabled which create a 15GB swap file. Since there is no need for hibernation to be enabled, use the following command at a DOS prompt:
powercfg -h off
That will disable and remove the file gaining back valuable space.
Looking at a more detailed view, using a free utility called WinDirStat, the vast majority of the space is consumed by Windows itself. Not much can be done
The start with, the boot time from pressing the power button to the desktop is 17 seconds. That’s almost as exciting as the game frame-rates! And speaking of games, the game frame rates were obtained using Fraps. Here’s a breakdown:
|Fallout New Vegas||Ultra||1920×1080||60*|
|Half-Life 2||High/Very High||1920×1080||300|
|Dishonored||Highest settings/VSync Off||1920×1080||130|
*Skyrim and Fallout have vsync enabled by default, and it’s not advised to disable it.
The Passmark Performance test results are shown below. This build versus the laptop that was used previously:
Using my previous gaming laptop, an HP dv6-6173cl, settings were at medium and still the frame-rates were low.. with discreet graphics (Radeon HD 6670M) and a Core i7, it was always a disappointment. This system is a huge step forward.
A side note, games will be added to the list as they are tested.